Development of a new motivation theory

In my thesis at The Univeristy of Szeged, Hungary, I constructed a new motivational model. Breaking with the tradition of hierarchical theories of motivation (like Maslow's hierarchy of needs), this theory of motivation based on the fractal-like qualities of basic motives, and utilizes such well-known motivation theories like Freud's, Jung's, or Gray's.

An integrated view of human motivation is still under construction in the field of psychology. It is an open discussion, what are the defintions of motives and drives, what could be some basic motives, how do they connect, how do the relate to behavior, emotions, and personality, and how motivation occurs. Freud, Jung, Maslow, Elliot and Church, Gray, Deci and Ryan are only some of the most important theory makers in this field. At the same time, I could not find a model to teach at my communication courses. Some of the theories are not proved or even confuted (see Maslow's Mistakes at, and the proved ones like Gray's or Deci & Ryan's I did not find specific enough. As I needed a lightweight but still rich-in-detail theory for my students, I developed a motivaton model called Cataysis.

I defined motives as energetic principles that integrate biological, social and psychic processes of the individual into a unified system which consciously or unconsciously shapes inward (attention, perception, intuition) and outward (emotions, thinking, behaviour) information.

Catalysis model - development of a motivation system

Many of the existing motivational models assume two different forces - one which resolves boundaries and results similarity, and the other which creates boundaries and results differences. These are the two conflicting and complementary forces which spans the endpoints of Catalysis model as well. On one end of the range, individual wants to maintain integrity (Boundaries +), while on the other end she wants to dissolve into a bigger unity (Boundaries -). Each form of life try to find an equilibrum between these two forces which allow them to succesfully adapt to the environment in every moment: this is the continually changing point of equilibrum (Harmony). These three basic motives relate to communication theory of aggression (Boundaries +), assertiveness (Harmony), passivity (Boundaries -), to the BIS-BAS model of Gray, as toward the end of (Boundaries +) behaviour activation, while toward the end of (Boundaries -) behaviour inhibition takes place.

Between (Boundaries +) and (Harmony), there are two more basic motivation families: to seek information from the environment - like novelty seeking, curiosity, discovery etc. - called (Perception +), and to change the environment - like control, power, success etc. - called (Action +). Between (Boundaries -) and (Harmony), the two other motivation families: to seek internal information - like intuition, rest, fantasy  etc. - called (Perception -), and to change the individual itself - like thinking, reflexion, development etc. - called (Action -). These basic motives are related to the four cognitive functions of Jung: sensation, feeling, intuition, and thinking, respectively.

Catalysis - theory of motivation, motivational theory
Catalysis - theory of motivation, motivational theory

On the whole, I identified seven basic motives, which together shape the biological, social and psychological processes of an individual including the in- and outward information: Boundaries +, Perception +, Action +, Harmony, Action -, Perception -, Boundaries -. These basic motives become specific goals in a self-similar, scale-free way, while an intimate connection forms between the continually changing - at the same time stable - personality, and the outer environment.

In this motivational model, Harmony mirrors the way, how the individual relates to the social and material environment, how flexible using their psychological (Boundaries -, Perception -, Action -) and biological (Boundaries +, Perception +, Action +),  motives in different contexts. This way, an analogy can be drawn between the functioning of the inner and outer world - „as within, so without”.

Basic Motives Definitions and motives
BOUNDARIES+ Assuring a separate existence.

retention, life, health, difference, autonomy

air, food, drink, roof, integrity, uniqueness, safety, independence, space, etc...

PERCEPTION+ Seeking information from the environment.

discovery, novelty, humour, pleasure, mobility

playfulness, sensuality, sexuality, variety, passion, etc...

ACTION+ Changing the environment.

action, swiftness, achievement, creation, self-expression

power, execution, effectiveness, control, ownership, consistency, performance, alteration, etc...

HARMONY Collaborating between different qualities.

harmony, intimacy, cooperation, communication, reciprocity

equality, balance, authenticity, presence, candidness, flexibility, etc...

ACTION- Changing the internal environment.

thinking, planning, self-reflexion, abstinence, listening

providence, understanding, seriousness, perspective taking, learning, choice, etc...

PERCEPTION- Seeking information of the inner world.

intuition, peace, rest, creativity, attention

wisdom, fantasy, imagination, quietness, tranquillity, integration, stability, patience, continuity, etc...

BOUNDARIES- Dissolving into a bigger unity.

release, closing, union, similarity, surrender

adaptation, trust, acceptance, committance, merger, openness, spirituality, wholeness, etc...

Just like self-similar and scale-free fractals, the above basic motives connect the outer environment and unfold into more-and-more scpecific, numerous, and directional goals. As fractals are nonlinear,  reasons are not necessarily commensurate with effects - the whole motivational system is exceptionally sensitive to the initial conditions. This means for example, that early attachment patterns are absolutely vital in influencing bonding as an adult. Dynamics of fractals are also help to understand, how someone can be in an intimate relationship with the environment and at the same time having a stable and continually changing personality.


I wrote my thesis at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Szeged, in 2017 in Hungarian language. Using the above motivational theory, I created a 120 item self-administred scale, and measured its content validity with the help of psychologists and psychiatrists. Analysing their answers, items in the motive groups of Action -, Action +, Perception -, Perception turned out to be a reliable basis to develop a 30 item scale, measuring different motives.

Practical usage

I use my theory of motivation at my assertive communication trainings and active listening courses. In these systems, if your motives/needs are not fulfilled you will experience negative emotions, when they are fulfilled, you will experience positive ones. Much of the work we do on these trainings is basically mentalization, trying to find our own and other people feelings and motives behind their behaviour.

If you have any ideas or questions concerning the above motivational model, please feel free to reach me using the contact details below!

You can read the full text of the thesis in Hungarian language HERE.